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Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian poet, critic, broadcaster, painter, and physician, was born in the al-Hanafy district in Cairo. His father, Muhammad Abu Shadi, was the head of the Egyptian Bar Association and his mother, Amina Naguib, was a poetess. He completed his primary and secondary education in Cairo and was involved in antioccupation activities during his adolescence. He joined the faculty of medicine (named Qasr al-Aini) and then traveled to London in 1912 to complete his studies in medicine at the University of London where he obtained a certificate of honor from Saint George Hospital in 1915. He married a British woman and lived with her in Egypt until her death in 1945. Following his return to Egypt in 1922, he served in many governmental posts in such places as the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States ...

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James Jankowski

Egyptian journalist, poet, and literary critic, was born in the Aswan region of Upper Egypt on 28 June 1889. His father, an archivist and money-changer, was Egyptian, and his mother was of Kurdish descent. ʿAqqad attended state primary school in Aswan, but since Aswan had no secondary school, his higher education was largely self-generated. With an inquisitive mind, and literate in Arabic, and to a lesser degree English (although his facility with that language improved over time), he read widely in his youth and afterward. An autodidact, his voluminous writings of later years demonstrate an interest in, and at least some knowledge of, a wide range of subjects.

In 1904 ʿAqqad left Aswan He had a varied career in the decade prior to World War I he worked in the Egyptian state bureaucracy possibly attending the School of Arts and Crafts as well as a school for telegraphers ...

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Evan Mwangi

Caribbean poet, historian, dramatist, and cultural theorist, was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite to Hilton Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, and Beryl Gill on 11 May 1930 in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. He was later given the name “Kamau,” a common name in central Kenya, by the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s mother, when Brathwaite visited Kenya as a guest of the University of Nairobi in the 1970s. For his early education, Braithwaite attended the Harrison College, an elite school in Barbados, beginning in 1945. He started writing poetry at an early age, publishing some of it in the school magazine, The Harrisonian, which he cofounded, and later in the audacious magazine Bim, edited by Frank Collymore, an eminent man of letters in the British Caribbean. Some of this early poetry was later collected in Brathwaite’s Other Exiles (1975).

In 1949 Brathwaite won the Barbados Scholarship to attend ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

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Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...

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Paul Breslin

Martinican poet, playwright, essayist, and political leader, was born on 26 June 1913, in Basse Pointe, Martinique. His parents, Fernand and Eléonore Césaire, were of modest means but devoted to their six children’s education. In 1924, Césaire entered the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France. In 1931 he went to France to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, in 1935, at l’École Normale Supérieure. In Paris, Césaire developed friendships with other young black intellectuals and writers, most notably the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas (1912–1978), a French Guianese who had been his schoolmate at the Lycée Schoelcher. In 1937, he met and married a fellow Martinican student and poet, Suzanne Roussi (1915–1966). The marriage produced six children, one of whom, Ina Césaire (1942– ), became a prominent writer as well.

Césaire and his circle sought a definition of black identity They were influenced by the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, the second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Aimé Césaire grew up with a strong appreciation for French culture. While most young Martinicans heard their bedtime stories in Creole, Césaire’s father would read his son French poems by Victor Hugo, which may explain in part Césaire’s bias against the Creole language. The family moved to Fort-de-France when Césaire was twelve years old. There Aimé enrolled at the Lycée Schoelcher and met Léon-Gontran Damas, a student from French Guiana. Césaire’s exceptional work there led to a scholarship to finish his secondary studies in Paris, France, at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In Paris he met the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, a man whose literary and political itinerary would mirror Césaire’s.

Césaire enrolled at the école Normale Supérieure in 1931 and began participating in the vibrant black student life of 1930s Paris Through ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...

Article

educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Aninydo Roy

Commenting on the works of Wilson Harris, Jamaican novelist John Hearne said, “No other British Caribbean novelist has made quite such an explicitly and conscious effort … to reduce the material reckonings of everyday life to the significance of myth.” Born in New Amsterdam, Guyana Wilson Harris is the author of more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. His most well-known works include the novels of The Guyana Quartet (1960–1963); The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990); the book of poems, Eternity to Season (1954, 1978 second edition); and the collection of essays The Radical Imagination (1992). He published his first volume of poetry, Fetish, while serving as a government land surveyor in Guyana in 1951. Palace of the Peacock, the first novel of The Guyana Quartet, appeared in 1960 and ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Luis Gonçalves

Mozambican poet, journalist, and literary and film critic, was born in Inhambane, Mozambique in 1932. His family name, Knopfli, comes from his Swiss great-grandfather. Knopfli’s father was in Mozambique, where he worked for the colonial government, and he married by proxy a Portuguese primary school teacher from the northeast of Portugal whom he had met years before, in Coimbra. She arrived in Mozambique at the end of 1930. In Mozambique, work assignments for both parents meant periods of separation for the couple, and Knopfli divided his time between his parents. He grew up on the school grounds playing with children of all races, while his mother worked in a racially integrated school. Knopfli credits his profoundly antiracism stance to his upbringing.

Early in his life Knopfli started to read politically engaged poetry from local authors who criticized the colonial regime which profoundly influenced him He also read poetry ...

Article

Peter Fraser

One of the most influential figures in promoting the intellectual and artistic life of the Black diaspora during the first half of the 20th century. He was especially interested in the visual arts but also encouraged black dramatists.

Locke was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Harvard University in 1907, and then attended Oxford University from 1907 to 1910 as the first black Rhodes Scholar. He then did advanced work in philosophy in Berlin before returning to the United States. He joined Howard University in 1912, only leaving to do his doctorate at Harvard. He then stayed at Howard until his retirement in 1952. He was the chief ideologue of the Harlem Renaissance and edited the influential anthology The New Negro (1925 in which he tried to lay out a cultural programme that would provide for African Americans a cultural and artistic life comparable to that ...

Article

Egyptian literary critic, journalist, lawyer, and politician, was born on 5 July 1907 in Kafr Mandur in central Minya al-Qamh to a large family (he had four brothers and four sisters). His father was a very religious man who was a member of a Sufi order, al-Triqah al-Naqshbandiyyah. Mandur was greatly influenced by his father‘s religious activity and placed a greater emphasis on his Islamic studies throughout his elementary education at the al-Alfi school.

The nationalist revolution of 1919 was a formative event in his early life He witnessed the demonstrations in Minya al Qamh including the violent one at Bahr Muys Bridge opposite the police headquarters The calls to get rid of the British and the revival of Egyptian national pride deeply influenced him His anti British sentiments grew following the British raid of his village after the villagers sabotaged the local railway During his high school studies ...

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Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton

Kenyan scholar, postcolonial theorist, and literary critic, was born in Seme, in central Nyanza Province, Kenya. He attended Ndiru and Ambira primary schools as a child, and the Church Mission Society (CMS) school at Maseno from 1949 to 1952. He studied at Makerere University College in Uganda from 1953 to 1956, where he was awarded the Makerere Arts Research Prize for his essay, “The Place of Folk Tales in the Education of Luo Children.” The historian B. A. Ogot, who was also a student at Makerere at the time, observes that for Owuor, this essay marked “the beginning of a distinguished career during which he made enormous contributions to the study of Luo oral literature” (Ogot, 2001 p 43 Anyumba came of age during the 1950s a period some Luo scholars refer to as the the Luo Renaissance when rising Luo intellectuals and educated citizens were actively ...

Article

Kimberly Welch

African American educator, historian, and literary critic, was born Jay Saunders Redding in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lewis Alfred Redding, a schoolteacher, and Mary Ann Holmes. As graduates of Howard University, Redding's parents maintained a modest middle-class environment for their children; his father was secretary of the local Wilmington branch of the NAACP. Redding graduated from high school in 1923 and entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that year, with no discernible career ambitions. In 1924 he transferred to Brown University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1928.

After graduation Redding became an instructor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where in 1929 he married Esther Elizabeth James. The Reddings had two children. Redding felt that his liberal political beliefs, which his conservative colleagues believed were “too radical,” were a major factor in the Morehouse College administration's decision to fire him in 1931 ...

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Sibyl Collins Wilson

poet, editor, and educator, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to John Henry Redmond and Emma Jean Redmond. In 1946, when he was nine years old, Redmond and his siblings were orphaned and left to be raised by his grandmother, Rosa A. Quinn. Active in the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), she created a circle of support for the children consisting of church and community members who acted as male role models. In 1958, he enlisted in military service as a Marine and from 1958 to 1961 served in the Far East, where he learned Japanese. When his tour of duty ended, he returned to his native St. Louis and served as associate editor of the East St. Louis Beacon in 1961 and 1962 before cofounding the Monitor, a weekly East St. Louis paper.

While he was working at the Monitor Redmond attended ...

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Mary Krane Derr

poet, writer, and educator, was born Carolyn Marie Rodgers in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest child of Clarence Rodgers, welder, and Bazella Cato Colding Rodgers, homemaker. Rodgers was one of four children, including two sisters and a brother. The family had migrated from Little Rock, Arkansas, and settled in Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Rodgers's parents encouraged their children to read and involved them in the local African Methodist Episcopal Church. After graduating from Hyde Park High School, Rodgers attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, but left around 1965, one course short of her B.A. She earned her B.A. in English from Chicago State University in 1981 and her M.A. in the same subject from the same institution in 1984.

Rodgers found her literary voice through the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s She was an original member of the Organization ...